Sport Soccer

Wednesday 24 January 2018

FAI banking on O'Neill-Keane 'dream team' to generate €10m bonanza

Newly appointed Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill
Newly appointed Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill

Garry Doyle

The FAI are hoping that their appointment of Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane as Ireland's new managerial team can generate as much cash as it has hype – believing a €10m profit can be attained within two years.

To reach this target, qualification for Euro 2016 is a must, yet already they have noticed a commercial bounce on the back of the O'Neill-Keane arrival. Sources within the association have confirmed that ticket sales for next Friday's friendly against Latvia have moved quickly and a sell-out is probable.

Beyond this, though, reaching the Euro finals in France is where the financial potential lies, with prizemoney, coupled with commercial off-shoots, providing the possibility of a gross intake of €15m, which would more than justify the €5m outlay (bonuses included) on the management duo.

For some, notably Eamon Dunphy, Keane's addition to the managerial team smacks of a showbiz decision.

Yet speaking on Shannonside radio yesterday, FAI president Paddy McCaul dismissed such a claim. "It's not showbiz," said McCaul.

"It is good from a football perspective and also from the box-office perspective. But our priority is football. We want to qualify for tournaments, we want to be strong.

"With these two men on board, our potential in recruiting new players will increase because of their status in the game.

"Young players who are eligible for one or more countries would be attracted to working with such proven winners.

"It's an exciting time for Irish soccer. I'm excited personally by the addition of two sporting icons to our cause.

"You couldn't fail to be fascinated by how the partnership will work. Getting Martin, our No 1 target from the word go, was great. Getting Roy is equally fantastic."

Given Keane's history with the FAI, some dissent from within the board was expected. McCaul, however, insists that his candidacy received unanimous backing from the 10-man committee.

"There wasn't even a debate," he said. "There was simply an endorsement of the CEO's (John Delaney) and the new manager's wishes. You have to remember, Saipan took place a long time ago and you also have to remember that Roy Keane returned to play for Ireland after Saipan, against the wishes of Alex Ferguson.

"I won't pretend I have had many dealings with him, but from the times I have met him, I have found him to be an absolutely fine man, someone who has his views and airs them the way he sees fit. Hopefully, we will see progress over the course of the next two years."

Irish Independent

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